The 2005 Giro saw me, Jake, John and Steve take to the road from Venice to Rome in bella Italia. We travelled a total of 668 kilometres in seven days (see statistics). After a couple of short easy days on the flat, we hit some evil hills and late summer heat as we headed south of Bologna.
We left Venice around 1pm on Saturday 10 September, having arrived at our hotel around 1.30am the night before. After walking the bikes through Venice to Piazzale Roma, we set off in bright sunshine on the bridge back over to the mainland. After no more than 400 yds, Steve encountered his first puncture.
Not too long after we were on the R11, taking a scenic route along the Riviera di Brenta towards Padova, where we would meet with our friends Enrico and Uli, and baby Emma. Not far from their pad and Steve had puncture number two! Enrico came out on his Vespa to meet us and escorted us home, where Uli prepared us a lovely (late) lunch. After we left, Steve made a bid for the highest Corbett points of the trip by faffing in a local bike shop, hoping to get kit to prevent further punctures.
We eventually made it to Rovigo around 8pm. A quick shower and we were supping Fosters and a variety of local cuisine before hitting the bar for a nightcap.
Next morning, Sunday, we took our time over breakfast and headed out to the bikes around 10.30am. Steve then discovered he had puncture number three. Time to apply the wheel strips and prevent further damage.
An hour later, again in sunshine, we ventured forth towards Bologna. Our peloton was finding its rhythm and we were soon cruising along nicely along still mostly flat roads.
After "early" lunch in Baura, where we were asked if we were German for the second day running, we bypassed Ferrara, taking another late lunch at a Pizzeria in San Pietro Casale, nearer Bologna. The pizzeria featured a waiter who must've auditioned for Flashdance, and a curious automatic toilet seat.
Bologna was reached in good time for a nice walk around the centre of town, where we sank a few beers and tucked into a free buffet.
Day three was the biggy: Bologna to Florence. We got off to an early start and managed a good route across Bologna to find a very minor road heading south. We were reassured by the mass of other amateur cyclists making a morning's ride along the pretty route. The landscape was starting to roll earlier than expected and we knew there were some big climbs ahead of us.
We cycled a total of 134km that day, around 30km more than we'd orignally thought. Features of the day included: John getting a bee sting next to his eye; the climb to the Passo della Raticosa (968m) where we found much needed coke, crisps, panini and coffee; and several long hairpin-interrupted descents where Jake clocked upto 65kmh.
The final features of the day were a spectacular pre-sunset descent into Florence, followed by a bit of fun finding the Duomo and then our hostel. The Porta Prato hostel ended up having a great location, even if it was a bit of a rough 'n' ready. Washed, but tired, we stumbled out of the hostel into the restaurant next door, where we enjoyed Bruschetta alla Fiorentina, Pizza Fiorentina and Bistecca alla Fiorentina, all washed down by beers and some free shots of grappa at the end.
The next morning we blearily awoke and finally made our way out for some coffee and panini together. Oops, Florence is a tourist town and the kitty took a hammering.
Before we left, John clocked up some Corbett points with a visit to an internet cafe, whilst Jake and I went to get supplies of fruit. We were soon heading out of town, however, on a slightly circuitous route towards the road to Siena. This was supposed to be an easier day, being 60km less in distance than the previous day, but it was also the hottest we encountered and had three long big climbs.
Big climbs always mean fast long descents, however, so there was some free pedalling to be had, which also gave the other guys respite from my squeaking saddle! We lunched in Greve in Chianti and had some big cokes at a German-run bar most of the way up a hill, where we almost lost Jake as we hadn't noticed him pass by until he'd finished resting his weary legs a few hundred yds further up the hill.
Another beautiful Italian town could mean only one thing: we had to go out and try the local beers, wine and food.
We had a brief photo call in the main Campo in the centre of Siena before taking a slight detour on the way out of town. It wasn't long before we were back on the right road, heading up some more hills and through the more barren pastures of southern Tuscany on the way to Abbadia San Salvatore, near Monte Amiata.
We stopped for lunch in Buonconvento, where Steve was very impressed by the Bruschette and John kept missing his place in the toilet queue. Later in the day the hills got bigger again, especially the final 10km towards Abbadia when we all ran out of water and had to take a detour back down the hill to Bagno San Filippo for some much needed coke, crisps and panini.
Abbadia had a cute little church but little in the way of nightlife. We managed to find a bar and eventually somewhere that served food: a nice local pizzeria.
The next day saw a spectacular sunrise. Well, Nick saw it. Our hotel, the Gambrinus, featured an array of toys outside, which we did our best to break before making a rapid descent out of Abbadia. On the way out of town we stopped for a photo call and met a man from Hertfordshire who'd spent 85 days thus far walking to Rome.
The first 15km was all down hill, then we got into some rolling countryside before we stopped for lunch in Bolsena beside a beautiful lake. Our destination was the town of Bagnaia, near Viterbo, where we dined out in style, once more trying the local specialities.
The final day saw us take a detour via Viterbo and a very very long hill climb first thing, before we rolled down towards the Lago di Vico. We had a bit of fun descending into Ronciglione, where we mislaid John. The mobile phones came out and we eventually got through to him, with three of us hanging out at a junction in town and John about 6/7km further ahead!
We took a hair-raising ride along a four-lane section of the Via Cassia before heading off to the Lago di Bracciano and a quieter approach to Rome. On the outskirts of the ancient city we found the Via Trionfale, which took us down almost to St. Peter's and a rendez-vous with Kirsty.
Just a few kilometres to do through town, past Piazza Venezia and the Forum and we found our hotel. Time to put the bikes away for another year...
It wasn't long before we were out for a celebratory beer!